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My Wife Doesn’t Work, and I Want a Divorce | Things to Consider

Anna Khmara

Anna is a certified life transformation and relationship coach with an in-depth focus on positive psychology and transactional analysis. Using her 3+ years of experience, she helps her clients understand the essence of the problem, build self-esteem, establish healthy relationships, find harmony, and manifest their dreams into reality.

Divorce, when your wife does not work, can be psychologically challenging for both partners.

For instance, if your spouse recently lost her job, she may still be in shock. Thus, the divorce news can knock the earth out from under her feet.

On the other hand, if your wife never worked or was unemployed for a long time while raising children, she may be intimidated by labor market competition and the uncertainty of her financial future.

But what does a husband who wants a divorce feel when talking about a breakup with a wife who can’t support herself financially? Most likely, he feels guilty.

Why? First, because his feelings faded away, and he initiated divorce proceedings. Second, because he wants to get a divorce from an unemployed wife.

You might think, “What kind of person am I if I want a divorce, but my wife can’t support herself?” But the answer is very simple. You are a person who wants to be happy. So, if your marriage doesn’t satisfy you, it’s absolutely normal to want to end it, even in such a situation.

Don’t feel guilty for your desire to be happy. Instead, talk about the divorce process with your spouse and plan things out to meet each party’s interests.

How to Tell Your Wife You Want a Divorce When She Doesn’t Work | Helpful Tips

Before telling your non-working spouse about your divorce decision, you need to prepare thoroughly. For example, you can write your opening monologue in bullet points and think over possible counter questions.

If you can’t do it yourself, you should seek professional help from a psychologist or therapist. They can help you get prepared for a conversation and even simulate dialogue with your wife.

Tell Your Wife You Want a Divorce When She Doesn’t Work

You should also consider where you’ll talk to your partner. A quiet place where nothing and no one can distract you would be a good choice.

However, if you expect an overly emotional reaction, you can talk to your spouse in a park, coffee shop, or another public place. If appropriate, you can even arrange a session with a divorce counselor who can moderate your conversation.

You should turn off phones and other devices that may interfere with your dialogue. Moreover, if you have kids, you should choose a time when they are not at home. If they accidentally hear your divorce conversation, it can traumatize them psychologically.

A widespread piece of advice from psychologists is to prepare emotionally for the divorce talk. If you feel depressed or your negative emotions run high, it’s best to put off the conversation and take a break. The consequences of negatively-charged dialogue can be dire for both partners.

Calm her down

Divorce news can scare your unemployed spouse for several reasons.

First, she may think she’s the main reason your marriage ends. It’s common for both working and non-working women.

Most wives whose husbands initiate marriage termination experience a sharp decline in self-esteem. They are overwhelmed by loneliness and despair. Sometimes, they think they won’t be able to find their happiness again.

Second, if your partner is not working, they may be frightened by the financial implications of divorce and fearful for their financial security. It’s not just about divorce expenses like hiring lawyers and paying court fees. Your wife may be worried about how she will make ends meet.

Your task is to calm her down. You can tell her something like this,

“I want a divorce. I don’t feel happy in this marriage, but we shouldn’t blame anyone. We both made our mistakes, and I believe we can’t fix our marriage. I know you can’t support yourself now, and I’m ready to help. I’m not going to leave you without money. So let’s talk about what we can do.”

Then, you can suggest an uncontested divorce. It’s an affordable option to end a marriage because if partners reach an agreement, they can continue the process without lawyers.

Talk about your finances, possible options to divide marital property and pay child support and alimony. Explain that you are ready to give her the financial backstop she needs to start a new life.

Make her feel appreciated

If your wife doesn’t work because you both have decided she should focus on raising your children and maintaining family comfort, divorce news may make her feel underappreciated.

A researcher from the University of North Carolina, Sara Algoe, proposes the find-remind-and-bind theory of gratitude.

Her idea is that you can either find a new partner or remind yourself of the partner you have now by showing appreciation and gratitude. Moreover, appreciation can bind you and your spouse to a stronger connection.

This theory can be rethought in the divorce context. By showing appreciation, you demonstrate that you truly value what your wife has done for your marriage. Your simple “thank you for everything” will create a more positive atmosphere as she’ll know you are grateful for her contribution.

What’s more, if there are children in the family, the parents will always be bound, even if they are divorced. Peacefully ending a marriage impacts the quality of the relationship between future ex-spouses. The healthier it is, the better for their children.

Make her feel appreciated

So tell her, “Thank you.” These two words can change everything. Explain that you appreciate what she has done for your family and children and that you understand how hard it was.

Be firm but compassionate

When discussing divorce with a non-working wife, you need to be as clear as possible to convey the main point. But at the same time, you shouldn’t be cold. Finding this balance is difficult, especially if you are struggling with self-guilt for initiating a breakup.

By showing uncertainty, you can give your wife false hope and an opportunity to convince you to reconsider your decision. However, if you are too cold and indifferent, you can awaken negative emotions that will only worsen the situation.

“Try to have this conversation without anger or blame,” suggests relationship therapist and dating expert Dr. Susan Edelman. Remember, it’s just an opportunity to express where you are right now in your relationship.

Licensed marriage and family therapist, Virginia Williamson, notes another critical thing. She says, “You do not have to defend yourself or your decision. You do not have to be held hostage in the conversation with your spouse justifying why you want to divorce.”

Therefore, if you finally decide to file for divorce, you should express your decision without ambiguity. However, be compassionate and try to understand what your future former spouse feels.

I Want a Divorce, But My Wife Can’t Support Herself | Spousal Support

If you are getting divorced from a non-working wife, the issue of maintenance may likely come up. Thus, you should understand what it is and how it works.

Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is a special payment that a higher-earning spouse temporarily or permanently pays to an insolvent party. The court can order such payments, but different states have different legal procedures and laws regulating this process.

To put it simply, spousal support is created to equalize the financial possibilities of divorcing spouses.

However, the alimony request may not always be satisfied by the court. The judge will analyze the situation and check whether one of the spouses has the opportunity to pay, and the other one has an obvious financial need.

If one of the spouses is unemployed and doesn’t have a source of income, maintenance will likely be awarded in their favor.

Another critical aspect is the marriage length. Some states have laws allowing spousal support payments only if a couple has been married for a certain period.

Other factors a judge can take into account when approving or rejecting spousal support include:

  • Standard of living during the marriage;
  • Each spouse’s assets, debts, and income;
  • Agreements regarding the division of property and whether the couple lives in a community property or equitable distribution state;
  • Each spouse’s age and state of health;
  • Each spouse’s ability to earn;
  • The reasons why the spouse requesting the spousal support is not working; etc.

Although laws vary in different states, the judges try to achieve the fairest result in every situation. If your wife is scared she might be left without money after a divorce, explain that neither you nor the judge will allow it. After all, it will be unfair.

Child custody also matters. If there are children in the marriage and they stay with the non-working spouse, the court can also order child support payments in addition to spousal support.

However, child support, custody, and alimony arrangements may change as spouses’ income changes.

You can use this information to talk to your wife. If she sees that you understand the issue and are not going to leave her without means to support herself, it may calm her down and give some certainty. Thus, you’ll be able to discuss the divorce in a peaceful atmosphere.

However, remember that the information above is basic. If you need any legal advice, you should find a professional lawyer specializing in Family Law. They will tell you how local regulations apply to your particular situation.

Divorce When Your Wife Refuses to Work

Sometimes a non-working wife doesn’t want to work during or after a divorce, although she can. In this case, you, as a husband, should know your rights. You don’t have to constantly pay alimony to support your spouse who doesn’t want to do anything to provide for themselves.

Make her feel appreciated

The court may order spousal support for a specific period of time to give the non-working spouse a chance to get back to work. It means the paying spouse can stop payments once the court-approved timeframe ends.

If your wife is able to work but refuses to do so, it’s not your problem as soon as you fulfill your court-assigned obligations.

If the unemployed spouse doesn’t fulfill the court-approved terms for alimony, the paying spouse may ask the judge to review the amount or period of payments. They can even ask the judge to cancel the spousal support.

Suppose a non-working wife refuses to acquire the necessary skills to get a job, doesn’t go to job interviews, etc. In that case, the court will review particular circumstances and issue a situation-specific decision according to local Family Law provisions.

However, appropriate evidence must be provided.

A non-working spouse can also take a special professional exam. It’s a way to evaluate the spouse’s ability to find employment maintaining the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage.

Sometimes, if couples have fundamental disagreements about the maintenance, the court may ask the unemployed spouses to take it.


Unemployment of one of the spouses can affect the divorce process in terms of alimony and child support. However, the outcome primarily depends on the spouses’ willingness to cooperate and reach a divorce settlement.

  • Are you and your unemployed wife ready to part peacefully?
  • Can you control your emotions to discuss divorce-related issues and make a joint decision regarding financial support for your non-working wife?
  • Will the financial support terms be acceptable and fair to both parties?
  • Is your non-working wife ready to fulfill them and try to provide for herself on her own once she’s ready?

These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself.

If you feel you are not coping with the situation, it’s better to seek professional help. For example, you can try divorce mediation or family therapy to plan negotiations with your wife. Or, you can hire a lawyer if the situation is too complex and your spouse doesn’t want to cooperate.

Although divorcing a non-working spouse can be challenging, it's not impossible. Sooner or later, your marriage will be dissolved, and you’ll be able to start a new happy life. So don’t lose hope, even if the situation seems hopeless to you now.


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